I haven't been this sore in decades. It isn't my arm or my shoulders. Just every single muscle from the quadriceps down. In case you didn't know, there is a shit load of running in baseball. And, it isn't normal running. There is no jogging here. When you are moving from base to base, it's a sprint. When you are chasing down a fly ball, it's a sprint. Basically, my day was periods of complete inactivity (from a muscular standpoint), punctuated with flat out running for your life from the tiger who is chasing you. Luckily, we have trainers. And they are busy! We had two games today. I had a sore calf after the first game and went to see the trainers for the first time. The guy probed a bit and I said "ouch" a bit. Then he proceeded to do a 3 minute tape job on my ankle that completely took my calf pain away. I played another 3 hours of baseball and never thought of it again. After the last game, I went back to the trainer to get the tape removed and into the ice tub. Yup, we're talking whole body ice bath. It's tough for the first few minutes and then you get used to it. I came out looking like I had been in the sun too long, but feeling much better. We'll see how it is tomorrow.
Our team finished the divisional games today. There are two divisions each with 4 teams. We won two and tied one. So, I guess we are undefeated. Tomorrow we start tournament play that culminates with a championship game on Saturday. I don't expect we will make it that far, but the quality of our play has increased dramatically. It would now take a Healdsburg Little League Senior team to beat us :-)
I said yesterday that I got the first base hit of my life. Then I went to the batting cages early this morning where Joel Youngblood gives instruction between 7:30am and 8:45 everyday. The guy is intense. This morning for the last 1/2 hour he played a game that was designed to force you to hit quality hits. His philosophy is that anyone can hit a baseball. But batting isn't about hitting the ball, it is about getting a quality hit.
The game is simple. You step up to the plate. He soft tosses a pitch. If you hit a line drive, you get another pitch. Otherwise, you go to the back of the line. If you hit a grounder or a popup, your out. With a line of 10 eager batters you cycle through quickly. I saw a few people get 7 quality hits, but most took only a single pitch. This game really made people focus on how they were hitting the ball, not just hitting it.
By Joel's standard my hit yesterday wasn't a quality hit. It was a grounder that made it out of the infield. I fixed that today. I hit a solid single. A line drive over the short stop and right in the gap between left and center field. It scored a run from second which is where I ended up at the end of the play. I was jazzed to say the least!
There are some difficult things about baseball that experienced baseball folks never think about. I think that this list is not going to be what you are expecting. Most of these things become automatic after a few years, but they aren't automatic for me.
1) The hat thing. Do you know how many of us got to the on-deck circle without a batting helmet? Sounds like a hard thing to miss, but trust me it isn't. Then, when you get back to the dugout and take it off, you gotta remember to put your hat back on. Otherwise, you find ourself in the field with your bald spot showing.
2) The glove thing. Batting gloves maybe wonderful, but after getting the on, you have to remember to take them off when you are on base. Otherwise some fielder looks at you and says "why you still wearing your batting gloves?" And, why do base runners hold their gloves in their hands like ice cream cones? I'm afraid to ask.
3) Looking for signs. Remembering to step out of the batter's box and look at your third base coach for instructions is one of the last things I am thinking about when I come up to bat. The first 100 things are things that Dave gave me to remember.
4) The equipment thing. You have a lot of stuff in the dugout that you have to keep track of. You leave your hat behind when you put on the batting helmet. You leave your gloves, well, all over the place. Keeping everything together and organized is an art I haven't mastered.
5) Throwing the ball around. I thought I had mastered this, but evidently not. When a play is made in the infield and there is nobody on base the ball gets tossed around the infield to random players until someone hands it to the pitcher. Don't ask me, I don't know how people figure out who to throw to.
6) It's really hard not to give the umpire incredulous looks. As an umpire myself, you would think I would be better at this. I'm not.
7) The thinking. OMG. Every single pitch, there are multiple things going through your head. If they hit the ball to me, what am I going to do? That's where I thought it stopped. No. You gotta think about what you are going to do if they hit the ball to other people too. Or what you are going to do if they attempt to steal. Or pick off a runner. There is no time to think after the ball is hit, so you have to think about it before.
8) Did I mention that there is a lot of running in baseball? It isn't like other sports because there is no sustained running. Just bursts. One of the things that I remember about playing basketball is that in the first 5 minutes of a game you get really tired. Then you reach a level that you can sustain for an entire game and you don't think about it anymore. All running in baseball is like the first 5 minutes of a basketball game. There are times when you are expecting to run like when you are playing outfield. But running to first after a hit is pretty far down on my list of what I am thinking about in the batter's box. Right below looking for signs from the third base coach.
9) A teammate who talks and and offers advice is invaluable. If you are a good baseball player, be one of these. The best part of my time at second is having Jim Fish, our shortstop talk to me. He reduces my stress and it also increases his confidence that I'm going to be where I need to be when he needs me there. Because of this, I have always been there at second to take his throw. Whew!
So many things that baseball players do have been burned into their habits. They don't think about their helmets because it is part of the ritual. It's like muscle memory, but for the brain.
But, my muscles are sore.
P.S. I think that tomorrow I'll have actual game pictures. I'm just waiting for them to post! I have never blogged publicly before. I am getting between 25 and 60 unique visitors a day. Thank you guys for reading!